Aquarela

(PG)

One out of four stars

If you go to Rottentomatoes.com and look at the top half page of any given title, you’ll see the ratings of both critics and audiences. Usually but not always, the audience number is always higher, you know, because those darn critics are so much harder to please.

As of earlier this week, the positive average critics score for “Aquarela” was 89% and the audience rating was 33%. So, what does that tell us?

You could theorize all you want but the easiest (and probably most obvious) reason is “Aquarela” is a film designed to make critics go all weak in the knees and to snag award consideration for the studio. For movie-goers, it was not a fun or even enlightening experience and left them stone cold. At the risk of losing my imaginary jaded critics’ card, I would side totally with audiences on this travesty. It is horrible.

Lasting barely 90 minutes, Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky’s documentary tone poem posing as a protest to global warming barely qualifies as either. It feels longer than “It Chapter 2” and “Avengers: Endgame” combined. Given the sparse running time and multitudes of global venues at his disposal, Kossakovsky employs just five — and two of them have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with man allegedly doing bad things to Mother Earth.

The first scenario – taking up 30 slow-moving minutes – is actually man doing something incredibly stupid while ignoring simple physics. Opening with roughly a half dozen guys in bright orange hazmat parkas, Kossakovsky hints something big is going to happen.

Utilizing field equipment which appears as if it was from the late 19th century, the faceless men are searching for something under a barely frozen Lake Baikal in Russia. Could they be police looking for a dead body or maybe a wounded sea creature?

Nope, they’re trying to fish out an ugly European car which fell in while trying to drive across the lake. That’s it – a car – with no passengers. That’s as close as “Aquarela” ever gets to being interesting unless you consider watching another car do the same thing in the same sequence. The bloodied driver of that vehicle – who is inebriated to such a degree he can’t even stand up, turns the situation into one of folly and unintended humor.

More water is served up in “act” two – all of it in the form of ice caps and icebergs both above and below the ocean surface. Shot at an almost-unheard-of 96 frames per second, the visuals are crystal clear but after five or so minutes of literally watching ice melt, it begins to lose any kind of visceral impact Kossakovsky had intended. It more resembles one of those white noise downloads you can find online for free as a possible cure for insomnia. It is guaranteed to either put you to sleep or bore you to tears.

The second-to the-last portion – while offering more visual variety – is no less disengaging. Taking place during and after a hurricane in Miami, the most impressive thing going on is how the camera moves down a street backwards without shaking. We don’t know when this took place as the movie has no narration or even establishing on-screen text; and we can only identify it as Miami because of street signs.

The final five minutes of the movie are the (relatively speaking) best when Kossakovsky ventures far south of the Equator to Angel Falls in Venezuela which at 3,212 feet is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. Breathtaking doesn’t begin to describe what is shown as Kossakovsky alternates between close-up, medium and distant panoramic long shots – frequently taking place above the clouds.

To say this sweet treat at the end of a meal consisting of bland overcooked cinematic vegetables was worth the wait would be a lie. It is not worth it in the least. You could probably find it as a white noise download as well so you can keep the $10 in your wallet and the 90 minutes of your life you might otherwise waste on “Aquarela”

It's yet another example of art-house navel gazing at its most pretentious.

(Sony Classics)